Off the Beaten Path
Join me on an adventure. Where will we go today?
As an annual pass holder to Gibb’s Gardens and a frequent visitor, I had high expectations for my bus trip today with the Scenic City Friends. I knew our older travelers would not be able to see much of the gardens because wheelchairs are difficult to roll on the gravel paths. We had tried it before. Many of the gravel paths sink the wheels. With over 150 benches, there are plenty of places to rest for those unable to traverse the entire garden. The front part of the gardens is lovely, with many pots with coordinating colors and plants. Several of my co-travelers stayed in the front area and enjoyed their visit. From the front area, part of the Japanese garden can be seen, as well as part of the running brook. The babbling water, bird chirps, and hungry squirrels add to the peaceful atmosphere. Dozens of tables are available under a tree canopy, and more are accessible across the wood bridge spanning the stream. Please do not feed the squirrels, no matter how cute they are, as they scamper around under the tables. They bite.
As a private botanical garden, the drive is worth the effort. Hundreds of well-manicured lawns are surrounded by landscaped flowerbeds that pop with color. Spring-fed ponds boast dozens of species and colors of water lilies. Pergolas, handcrafted Japanese lanterns, a smiling Buddha, a hand-carved chair from a wood stump, and Japanese maples adorn a large Japanese-styled garden. The water has the deep color of a blue hole in several of the ponds. Water drips over minor falls throughout the garden. Wood bridges span the ponds and streams.
A large fern dell leads into the newest section of Gibbs Garden - Inspiration Garden, the most expansive fern dell I have ever seen in my travels. I spotted at least six different species of ferns, ranging from 4 inches to 4 feet. Sprinkled in the fern dell are trillium, a native wildflower to North America—a few mountain laurels dotted behind the ferns. One of the things that Jim Gibb does very well is height contrast.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma plowed through Georgia, taking down most of the trees in that section. Jim Gibbs, already an award-winning landscape architect and seasoned gardener, studied various plants that flourish in Section 7. He built an inspirational garden with rare dwarf Japanese maples, dwarf ginkgos, and over 200 varieties of dwarf conifers. Giant boulders were buried in the hillside. Hydrangeas and mountain laurels provide some white color to the dozens of shades of green.
Inspiration Garden goes up an altitude of 150 feet, leading up to the Manor House. A recommended ADA pathway is on the map for those unable to traverse up the incline. Not all the gardens are accessible because of the topology of the gardens. If you can walk up the steep incline, the house and the view of the terraced gardens, along with the blue ridge mountains in the distance, are worth the climb.
In front of the house are several arches covered in climbing roses. Pots hold colorful plants to add to the visual appeal. To the side of the house is a pool of water with two small pools feeding it. The other side also has a water feature with a dozen pots of colorful plants.
The house is in a combination of styles, predominantly a Mediterranean look. There is a Tudor look with the wood embedded in the concrete sides and a shingles look of a Swiss home. The rest is Italian, with curved windows and arches leading to terraces and patios. The details around the windows, the roofline, and underneath the roof also look Italian. You may decide for yourself. It is a beautiful home.
There are distinct gardens throughout Gibbs Garden. I love the children’s garden, which features detailed metal statues of children playing. One is playing the flute, another is reading a book. Some are fishing while two ride a giant turtle. Sculptures are scattered throughout the garden. A fox sits in the table area. A mountain cat slinks down an incline.
The highlight of the trip is a new, wildflower section. Yellow cosmos cover a hillside with red poppies in the lower fields. There are multiple paths with various degrees of difficulty to walk. The lowest path is on the same level as the rose garden with a slight incline. The hill is approximately 50 feet incline. I walked over four miles today and saw most of the gardens. HINT: wear great walking shoes.
The roses are in full bloom in every color. They are scattered all over the park. Pansies in every color and size adorn the edges of the flower beds, their faces dancing in the wind. Larkspur leaps to the skies in the center of the cosmos and poppies in a splash of purple. They also add height interest in the pansy beds and flower pots. Majestic Magnolia trees soared to the heavens. Part of the gardens are formal but my favorite sections are those more naturalized. The wildflowers are scattered across the hillside. Ferns and other shade loving plants spread underneath the canopy. I will let my pictures speak more than my words can tell about the beauty and splendor.
Gibbs Garden is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9 am to 4 pm. The cost for adults is $25, seniors are $18, and children 3 to 17 are $10 each per day. You can apply the cost of admission to an annual pass that goes one year from activation. Adult membership is $60, and children 3 to 17 are $30. There is no cost for parking. Even though most of the park has strenuous walking, the front quarter is level and easy to walk, with several places to sit.
Estimated Bloom Calendar
Daffodils - March 1st through April 15th
With multiple species, not all bloom simultaneously, but we saw hundreds of thousands when we went in 2022.
Cherry Blossoms - Two weeks in March
Dogwoods - Two to three weeks in April
Azaleas - April into Fall
Fern Dell - April through late October
Rhododendron - Two to three weeks in May
Roses - First of May until November
Hydrangea - May until November
Waterlilies - May until November
Daylilies - June until August
Crape Myrtle - July to August
Annuals & Perennials - rotate out in flowerbeds and pots, spring through fall (peaks summer)
Wildflowers - varies throughout spring to fall
Fall leaf color changes - September to November